Title: Making the case for defining clefts broadly as secondary specification structures: Prosody and information structure
Authors: Davidse, Kristin
Kimps, Ditte
Njende, Ngum Meyuhnsi
Issue Date: 14-Sep-2016
Conference: Communicative Dynamism edition:2 location:Namur, Belgium date:13-14 September 2016
Abstract: Making the case for defining clefts broadly as secondary
specification structures: Prosody and information structure
Krist in Davidse, Dit t e Kimps and Ngum Meyuhnsi Njende (KU Leuven)
In this presentation we argue that English cleft constructions may have as matrix it be + NP (1), there
be + NP (2), or I/ you/ we have (got) + NP (3) (Davidse 2000, Lambrecht 2001). They all specify values
for the variable designated by the relative marker (which may be zero) in the cleft relative clause,
e.g. the value garden space for the variable ‘x that is so precious for kids’ in (1). The value typically
has prosodic prominence, signalling information focus.
(1) and it’s g\ arden space // that is {s\ o} pr\ ecious {for k\ ids// }/ / not h\ ouse space// (quoted
Collins 2006: 1708)
(2) [in reaction to question if there are any known academics in the department] A: well ^f\/ irst
of ′all// there’s a ^man called ′′!H\ ocking// who ^has I ′think :taken his de:gr\ ee/ /^in this
de!p\ artment// and is ^kn\ own/ / [@] who ^s\ eemed [@:m]/ /to ^be [s @] !f\ / airly
′strong// ^and there is ′′!H\ erman/ /who is ^\ also ′known/ / (LLC)
(3) D: ^well . !their de'partment of 'edu:c\/ ation# - [@:] - . ^joined to'gether with the
'paraplegic 'home study :c\ouncil# - the com^{m\ /ittee} that :I was 'on with 'Julius
!W\/ ilton# . ^got some !m\/ oney# ^from [dhi] 'Larkish 'state b\ ank# . from ^their
'Staat'banken 'Jubi!l\ eums 'fund# ^[dhi] - !state 'bank :j\ ubilee 'fund# * - ((1 syll))*
A: * ^good G/ \od# ^th\/ at* 'is 'what is# fi^nancing 'Hamar`s pr\oject#
D: ^yes well they they !have ^that f\ / und# ^is is a !very !r\ / ich - 'one# (LLC)
Crucial to the grammatical argumentation for this generalization is the systematic contrast with
clauses with identifying be (4), existential be (5) and have (6) with complements containing NPinternal
restrictive relative clauses (RRCs), which define subtypes of the head nouns (Davidse &
Kimps 2016). Prosodically RRCs tend to be integrated into the postverbal NP as part of the tone
contour on which the whole clause is uttered (Halliday 1994).
(4) ^y=es// ^this is the one I could most l\ ive ′with // (LLC: 1.8)
(5) A: ((there are)) ^some 'people who :like to 'come :once a 'week just to s\ / ing / /
?A: ^y\ es //
D: \ / almost / / to an ^\ evening 'class // - * ((and))*
A: .* ^y\ es // * ^y\ eah // ((but there are)) ^those who 'like to 'come [t] to a !few re'hearsals
be:fore a :c\ oncert / /
A: ^[=m] / / ^y\ es / /
D: and we ^have !both 'sorts of :p\ eople // (LLC)
(6) <1 7 A> * *^in the . ^in the !\ / amplifier#* * I`ve ^got 'one of these * 'things that goes
!s\ ideways# (LLC)
In this paper we will closely investigate the prosody and information structure of clefts with two
main aims. Firstly, we want to strengthen the – presently contentious – case that constructions with
the three types of matrices in (1), (2) and (3) really do form one general type of cleft constructions.
Secondly, in light of this broad definition of clefts, we will re-consider what is generally seen as the
central question about clefts, viz. whether they are focus-marking structures (e.g. Lambrecht 2001)
or topic/ theme-marking structures (e.g. Halliday 1967), coming down on the position that they are
neither. We argue that they are not purely information structure marking devices – in which view
some form-meaning mismatch has to be posited, be it viewing the matrix as lexically empty
(Lambrecht 2001) or the relative clause as extraposed from the matrix’s subject which it is claimed
to form a unit with (Halliday 1967). Rather, they are complex sentence constructions in which
meaning matches form with the following properties:
(i) They have a matrix whose predicate assigns a semantic role to its complement, such as
identifier of identifying be in (1), existent of the existential predicate in (2), and patient
of have in (3).
(ii) The whole complement NP is the head being modified by (and the antecedent of) the
cleft relative clause: it designates determined instances, garden space in (1), Hocking
and Herman in (2), that fund in (3).
(iii) The ‘secondary’ modification of the postverbal complement is similar to that in some
secondary predication constructions (Nichols 1978, McGregor 1997, König & Lambrecht
1998), but, because of its specificational semantics, constitutes a ‘secondary
specification’ construction.
The proposed analysis tallies with the fact that focus placement in attested examples is more
variable than either of the two information structure analyses of clefts predicts. As secondary
specification constructions, they can convey a plurality of mappings between ideational,
interpersonal and textual meanings.
Davidse, K. 2001. A constructional approach to clefts. Linguistics 38: 1101-1131.
Davidse, K. & Kimps, D. 2016. Specificational there-clefts: functional structure and information
structure. English Text Construction 9.
Halliday, M.A.K. 1967. Notes on transitivity and theme in English 2. Journal of Linguistics 3: 199-244.
Halliday, M.A.K. 1994. An introduction to Functional Grammar. London: Arnold.
König, J.-P. & Lambrecht, K. 1998. French relative clauses as secondary predicates: A case study in
Construction Theory. In F. Corbin, C. Dobrovie-Sorin & J.-M. Marandin (eds) Empirical Issues in
Formal Syntax and Semantics 2. The Hague: Thesus, 191-214.
Lambrecht, K. 2001. A framework for the analysis of cleft constructions. Linguistics 39: 463-516.
McGregor, W. 1997, Semiotic Grammar. Oxford: Clarendon.
Nichols, J. 1978. Secondary predicates. Berkeley Linguistics Society Proceedings 4: 114-127.
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IMa-p
Appears in Collections:Functional and Cognitive Linguistics: Grammar and Typology (FunC), Leuven

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